Californication — 4 Comments

  1. It's won­der­ful to have your obser­va­tions of of the Twin Cities. I agree with your wife. As a pro­fes­sion­al tour guide, I often make the dis­tinc­tion between the two cities: Min­neapo­lis is about progress and St. Paul is about preser­va­tion. Min­neapo­lis may have start­ed on that jour­ney when the down­town build­ings were set on fire from explod­ing flour mills. No kid­ding. The result­ing fires forced them to rebuild. St. Paul is pri­mar­i­ly a res­i­den­tial city. It's largest source of rev­enues have come from the many col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that are in the area. We have a high­ly edu­cat­ed work­force but there has always been a lev­el of aware­ness of neigh­bor­hood hous­es as relat­ed to cam­pus sprawl. The col­leges have large­ly been extreme­ly coop­er­a­tive with the res­i­dents. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing peo­ple who want­ed enor­mous McMan­sions would be out in third ring sub­urbs. The city lots gen­er­al­ly don't allow peo­ple to build hous­es that big. Clear­ly, that's changing.

  2. Thanks, Michelle! I have been read­ing up on the nuances of tear­downs and over­build­ing (or per­haps it should be termed uber-build­ing?). It's a knot­ty issue for sure. No-one real­ly wants to cir­cum­scribe the rights of prop­er­ty own­ers; and court prece­dent in the US leans strong­ly in favor of giv­ing those own­ers a free hand with their prop­er­ty. The tools avail­able to lim­it what can be done to a prop­er­ty are few. Zon­ing is a blunt instru­ment. Build­ing codes can help, but they can be worked around in any num­ber of ways by a deter­mined builder. Des­ig­na­tion of a neigh­bor­hood as his­toric offers the strongest pro­tec­tions. But is there actu­al­ly any­thing his­toric about Mac-Grov­e­land (e.g.)? Charm­ing, yes; invit­ing, cer­tain­ly; but not par­tic­u­lar­ly historic.

  3. The same thing has been hap­pen­ing in my for­mer neigh­bor­hood of Con­cord, MA — I didn't real­ize it was called Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion. The house next door was a mod­est one-sto­ry home where a fam­i­ly with 3 active boys were raised. When they sold the prop­er­ty, the new own­ers dou­bled (!) the size of the house for their 2‑child fam­i­ly, clear­ing trees that had pro­vid­ed our pri­va­cy. All we could do was ask, "Why?" The answer, of course, was, "Because they can."

  4. Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion makes more eco­nom­ic sense, alas, in places like Con­cord, Lex­ing­ton, or Edi­na: there's more spread between aver­age prop­er­ty val­ues (high and ascend­ing) and the price for an old, small­er house sit­ting on that valu­able land. What baf­fles me is see­ing tear­downs in a rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble mar­ket and a mod­est neigh­bor­hood like Mac-Grov­e­land, whose appeal is most­ly in the aes­thet­ics and the qual­i­ty of life, and not in spec­u­la­tive real estate.

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